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NIGHT LIFE

Wonderland opens in Cahuenga Corridor

The 'Alice'-themed venue, more lounge than club, is open three nights a week.

October 09, 2009|Scott Sterling

At the official opening of new Cahuenga Boulevard club Wonderland on Wednesday night, the scene at the entrance was classic L.A. velvet-rope drama, the crowd out front made livelier with the arrival of legendary Bay Area rapper Too Short. A trio of leggy girls ran from a cab straight inside as a gaggle of gathered paparazzi rushed to get a volley of shots. "It's the girls from 'The Hills!' " someone exclaimed from the throng, still straining to get in at midnight. Only it wasn't.

The newest arrival to Hollywood's happening Cahuenga Corridor looks like it's going to fit right in. Even if it is lightly themed around, yes, "Alice in Wonderland."

"Cahuenga is probably the busiest street in Hollywood right now," explained co-owner Mike Malin, talking by phone about why he thought the area just two blocks north of the crush of bars and clubs around Hollywood Boulevard was ripe for one more. "Our friend and business partner Shereen Arazm had a couple of clubs [in the Wonderland space], one being Concord, which was ultra-hot about five years ago. After that it was a club called Shag. There's a lot of parking in the area, which is also nice."

Malin and Arazm are both members of the Dolce Group, the Los Angeles hospitality team responsible for such hot spots as Geisha House, Les Deux and the restaurant Ketchup, which gained notoriety as a regular setting for MTV reality show "The Hills." The other members of the Dolce Group are Lonnie Moore, Sylvain Bitton and JT Torregiani. Malin brings Hollywood flair into the mix, as a former contestant on CBS reality show "Big Brother" in 2001 and the winner of the 2006 "Big Brother: All-Stars."

Despite that hot-spot pedigree -- or maybe because of it -- Wonderland doesn't go too over the top with the "Alice" motif.

"It's a very loose 'Alice in Wonderland' theme," Malin said."We wanted it to be playful and whimsical but not beat people over the head with it. So it's not too kitschy or super colorful." The club's interior is by Tony Schubert of Event Eleven and cuts up the large-ish, 4,200-square-foot space, making it more intimate than party barn. "We took out the dance floor because we wanted to make it more of a lounge," Malin added.

Opening night, the young, heavily-female crowd, dolled up in party dresses and heels, made its own dance floor in front of the DJ. The DJ played a mix of current hits and '80s nuggets from the likes of Asia and Rick Springfield.

The front of the club is covered but basically open-air, with elevated ceilings creating portals to the sky, enabling the area to also serve as a smoking lounge. The front is heavy with leather couches and table areas away from the din of the ad hoc dance floor, which is parallel to the large, rectangular bar. Cocktail waitresses in pink tutus maintained a brisk bottle service. Along the other side of the bar is a quaint living room scene, largely empty because of the speaker blasting loud music right above it.

"It's cute," said Camille Fox, a 23-year-old actress from Studio City. "I like that it's a party and people are dancing, but there's enough room to go hang out too."

"Over the last year or so, the wave in Los Angeles night life has been these big event-style spaces that are popular in other cities, like Miami, Las Vegas and New York," Malin explained. "We wanted to bring it back to basics, which is a smaller, more intimate vibe. We serve food as well."

The club will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, eventually opening more nights of the week, but Malin said they're in no rush to expand just yet.

"We've had Les Deux for a few years, so to be able to get back to that A-list that we're known for is really exciting," Malin enthused. "The demand right out of the gate has been really impressive."

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scott.sterling@latimes.com

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Wonderland

Where: 1835 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles

When: Wednesday, Friday and Saturdays, 10 p.m.-2 a.m.

Price: Cover depends on event; call ahead

Contact: (323) 957-1599

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